Mattimeo is the third book in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It is the direct sequel to Redwall. It was published in 1989 by Hutchinson (in the UK; Philomel in the US). The Redwall wiki (spoilers!) can be found here, and info about Brian Jacques can be found here.
“Slagar the fox contemplated Redwall Abbey, his twisted face hidden beneath a sinister harlequin hood. How he hated the peaceable Abbey creatures; how he hated the fearless mouse warrior Matthias, whom he held responsible for his injuries. Gathering his mercenary band of rats, stoats and weasels about him, he prepared for his hour of vengeance.
But there would be no heroics for Slagar the cruel, no courageous battle plans. He knew too well that the power of the legendary Redwall sword had vanquished more terrible enemies that himself.
His scheme was much more cunning and would strike at the very heart of all the Abbey held dear. Above everything Redwallers loved and cherished their young. Slagar would steal them from under their very noses, and Mattimeo, Matthias’s headstrong young son, would be the biggest prize of all.”
What I Liked:
I remember when I first read Mattimeo the revelation about Slagar garnered a great “Whhhaaaaatttt?” reaction from me. I still think it’s brilliant. He’s also probably one of the most chilling Redwall villains simply because his horde remains in constant fear of him. There’s never a plot to overthrow him, he’s smart, he’s clever, he’s not ridiculed by his followers, he doesn’t go mad or is driven crazy by some object. Compare him to Tsarmina, Cluny, and a lot of the later villains in the series and he’s up at the top of the list.
The puzzle/riddle aspect is even more pronounced here than in Mossflower and it’s still fresh and fun, although at times I wish that more creatures than just the select three/four/five figure them out. Some random creature who we never hear of again should just pop up, solve the puzzle, and then disappear into the nameless crowd of Redwallers.
Mattimeo’s development feels a little fast, but I suppose it makes sense. In that type of situation, people have to grow up pretty quickly. It’s striking how similar Mattimeo’s vow to Slagar is to Martin’s vow to Tsarmina in Mossflower, and it’s striking how similar the two villains’ deaths are. The deaths are also both very fitting to that villain’s character.
Rollo! The only non-annoying Dibbun (although they don’t have that name yet) in the series, and the only one (besides Arven in a later book) that has a decent name! Actually, stand-alone babies tend to have better names than the ones in groups. That’s interesting. But it also sort of goes along with the whole degeneration of names as the series goes along.
What I Didn’t Like:
Okay, so the Redwall part of the book after Warbeak goes to deliver the map to Matthias and Co. is completely useless. It just makes the book more confusing, what with all the viewpoint and group jumps. Nothing of import happens and all it does is show that Redwallers can handle themselves without their warriors being present, which we already knew (actually, it shows that they can handle themselves for a time until an actual warrior conveniently comes along and handles the problem for them). There was maybe only slight character development for Cornflower, but that’s it. It just made an already long book even longer.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Violence, death.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“Right, Rollo you young rip. Let’s hear you sing for old Uncle Baz, wot?”
Rollo willingly obliged, piping up in his gruff baby voice,
“Fight a flagon an’ drink a dragon,
Gizzard a lizard an’ split his blizzard,
Ride a spider for good ol’ cider,
Gooooood oooooold ciderrrrrrrr!”
Suddenly Basil deposited the infant on the steps and shot up to the west ramparts. Mrs. Lettie Bankvole was seen bustling across from the gatehouse doorway, where she had been folding napkins for the table.
“Ooh, you villainous lop-eared troublemaker, just let me get me paws on you and I’ll make you sing a different tune.”
Cornflower pointed at the stone tablet. “Obviously the answer is in the rhyme, because it says: ‘Take this graven page and seek. What my words in stone could mean.’ Surely that’s a start.”
“Burr, ‘scuse me marm, oi thinks it be afore that, even: ‘Somewhere ‘twixt our earth’n’sky, burds an’ gentle breezes roam.’ Whurrs that?”
“That’s where we might espy the key, according’ to that there,” Ambrose Spike chuckled. “Best look about for a key floatin’ round in midair. Silly, I calls it.”
Mattimeo has perhaps one of the best villains in the series and retains the puzzle/fetch quest aspect of Mossflower and, to an extent, Redwall, keeping it fresh without becoming too stale (like bread! Oh, food metaphors). The Redwall sideplot is unnecessary and takes away from the far more interesting main story of Mattimeo and Matthias, but the series continues to be fun and exciting without relying too much on old formulas.
You can buy this book here: Mattimeo: A Tale From Redwall
Coming Up Next: Mariel of Redwall